In this blog Luke Brotherdale Smith talks about how his passion for the Basic Income has developed and introduces a series of articles he is writing. Over the next eight weeks Luke will analyse the eight giants Guy Standing sees as haunting modern Britain and will explore how a Basic Income can combat them.
Luke Brotherdale Smith, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland Volunteer
In Guy Standing’s recently published report written for the Shadow Chancellor ‘Basic Income as a Common Dividends’, influenced of course by Beveridge, Standing reflects on the eight modern giants he sees as stalking modern Britain. He comments on how these giants are having a protracted negative effect on society as well as the economy, and how the Basic Income can be a key tool in combatting the growing challenges these giants pose. In the next few weeks, we will be releasing a series of articles analysing Standing’s eight giants and delving further into how the Basic Income can (and will) combat them.
The giants are inequality, insecurity, debt, stress, precarity, automation, extinction and the rise of the far right.
Before delving straight into the series of articles about Standing’s eight giants, I thought (Cleo suggested / imposed) that I should introduce myself as a CBINS volunteer, talk about my interest in the Basic Income and why the hell I’m spending my summer holiday writing about it. Firstly, I’m a student at the University of Edinburgh originally from Yorkshire (no these things aren’t mutually exclusive) and I’m reading a degree in ‘Government, Policy and Society’. Unsurprisingly, spending everyday analysing current and recent governments, it becomes quickly apparent that policy-making is often sub-par to say the least. Whilst we hear regularly in the news about the failings of Universal Credit, it is only when you delve deep into policy documents and read the fine print that you realise the extent to which our current social ‘security’ is (to put it eloquently) a colossal fuck-up. Worse than this, the punitive system doesn’t exist by accident or imperfect implementation, but by deliberate design. For decades the trend in policy-making (despite a distinct lack of supporting evidence) has been punishing the most vulnerable in society, burdening them with more responsibilities, more conditions and more hoops to jump through essentially in order to justify their survival. You’ll be surprised to find out that this systematic stripping of the welfare state has not be conducive to reducing poverty nor improving wellbeing. Whilst I could go on forever about our current system’s deep deep failings, you get the picture. So this is a major reason why I was quite keen on getting involved with CBINS and increasing awareness of the Basic Income as an alternative way of doing things.
My intrigue in the Basic Income actually pre-existed my University endeavours, with initial interest deriving less from a policy-centric place but more due to the moral and humanist justifications. I spent much of A level (as I’m sure most 18 year olds do) studying Plato, reading (wading) through some of Marx’ Capital and generally spending time researching other light and fun topics. But I often feel that when exploring these incredibly complex and often abstract philosophical viewpoints about how the world is or should be, these great minds sometimes don’t see the wood for the trees. By this I mean so much complicated jargon or theory about what happiness is, and other ideas, seem to sort of get in the way of what a decent planet and basic human existence could and maybe should consist of. So sat in my rocking chair I concluded rather than indirectly trying to nurture prosperity through a variety of bizarre mechanisms, we should just give people money. Yep, its that simple. Fundamentally I believe that all people should be entitled to a life without poverty, simply giving a basic human right to a decent standard of living. This means people being given enough money to survive, without stressing about being able to feed their kids or whether they can afford to turn the heating on. I don’t think its some crazy communist idea that, in a world of plenty where certain people have like five yachts (what do they even do with them?!), everyone is guaranteed a minimum floor so they don’t starve. So my fascination with the Basic Income pretty much stemmed from the wacky idea that all humans as living, breathing and intelligent beings should be entitled to a decent standard of living.
Finding myself increasingly open to the idea of a Basic Income, I moved on from simply nodding along to the various moral arguments for the theory to considering how a Basic Income could have tangible real life effects. Whilst I was spending less time on the Playstation and more time thinking about how I could change the world, my sister was moving down to London to pursue her dream of being a playwright. The difficulty she’s faced since of working full-time to pay rent and put food on the table, as well as finding the energy to write and chase her dream, really struck me as an obvious example of how the Basic Income will massively help people. Not only is a Basic Income a safety net, but its also a platform which rids people of the fear of not affording necessities, and therefore gives them more time and mental energy to be creative and actually pursue their goals, rather than just a 9-5 job to pay the bills. Imagine that for a second. A society where people don’t act out of financial pressure and fear, but are driven by aspiration and can pursue their passions. People in politics (not mentioning names Mrs May) love to bang on about meritocracy and how you can go as far as your hard work and talents take you. However, it is predominantly those with a healthy bank account that can elevate above financial stress and precarity and fund their passions. Be it having the finance to take a year out of full-time work to write a book, or affording to move house for a new job, money is fundamental to the pursuit of people’s interests and passions. Therefore another major reason for my support of a Basic Income is its role as an investment. The Basic Income is an investment in people. The entire populace is provided with a solid, unconditional platform which prevents genuine fear of deprivation and empowers people to pursue their dreams. And imagine what happens when people fulfil their potential, or even just some of it. We all as a society benefit. We will all benefit when the council estate boy from Stoke becomes the doctor that discovers the cure to Alzheimer’s or delivers that life saving transplant to a loved one. Whilst some may see this as idealistic or utopian, I think we will all be surprised to see what people are capable of when they’re no longer burdened by fear of poverty, but are instead lifted to aspire and dream.
So yeah, thats me. In between the Martin Luther King style preaching and the short life story, that just about explains why I’m a big fan of the Basic Income, why I am involved in CBINS and trying to engage and educate people about this great idea. These next few weeks we are going to be releasing a series of articles which revolve around the eight giants touched upon in Guy Standing’s brilliant report. I’m going to be analysing the existence of these issues within the UK, and how a Basic Income can help tackle these giants. So please do get excited for some high quality Basic Income content coming soon.
Link to Guy Standing’s Report: https://www.progressiveeconomyforum.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/PEF_Piloting_Basic_Income_Guy_Standing.pdf
And if you want to get involved and join the CBINS community, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org